Am I still allowed on here or what?

Is my time up?

I was going to post a few more things before my tenure as “Wednesday Guest” expired. But perhaps it already has?

It’s funny, all this posting: I was nervous, skeptical, but then got quickly addicted to finding things and slapping them up on Maud’s site. It provides a strange sense of empowerment, somehow. Or perhaps I am just procrastinating. Shame spiral! Shame spiral!

Instead of doing any work today, I cleaned like a madman, and then finished up this birthday package to send to the aforementioned “girl”. Its contents: the sexually suggestive, inappropriate mix cd, a card I made out of a piece of bristolboard and a quarter (she’s twenty-five) and a disposable camera, which I have half-filled with pictures of my neighbourhood. We live in different cities; she’s meant to take the remaining pictures and then send it back to me for developing. And in two weeks she visits and we share. I am, indeed, the cheesiest human being on earth. What I really need is an edge — tattoos, maybe. Or a Pit Bull. Girls dig that kind of stuff, right?

The work I was meant to be doing today is actually sort of interesting, perhaps even link-worthy. I am helping compile an online database of Theatre and Development in Canada. The site is run by a fellow who is co-Artistic Director at Montreal’s Teesri Duniya Theatre, a company “committed to the creation, development and production of socially relevant plays based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities living in Canada.” They do good work.

Last fall I worked as a writer on Teesri’s “Untold Stories Project”:

The Untold Stories project brings together community volunteers with professional and emerging performers, writers, designers, and directors to produce theatre based on stories collected from members of marginalised populations.

It was fun.



Dark stories

Crime fiction novelist P.D. James recently wrote that her storytelling began with the dark stories she told her siblings at night, as a kid.

Matchbooks were an essential prop of my childhood storytelling. Never mind that I wasn’t allowed to play with them. My mom would park the car outside a mall. “Be right back,” she’d say, disappearing into the stores for hours while my sister and I bitched at and pinched each other.

When we got tired of that, Sister asked me to tell stories. In the glove compartment at any given time were fifteen or twenty matchbooks hidden under papers with the cigarettes Mom claimed not to smoke.

I picked out a matchbook and wrote “Match Village” on the inside flap. Then I drew smiling faces on each individual match. Sometimes I provided brief biographical information about some of the matches. “This is Gertrude,” I’d say, bending one happy face forward, “She smells bad and works at the bank.” And then I’d set the whole thing on fire and make all of the matches scream until the matchbook singed my hand. Sister would laugh and beg me to do it again.

The events in my written stories were no less random and dire. Here’s the text of the first one.

Have I mentioned that mental illness runs in my family? Both sides. Okay, off to collect my friend now.



I grew up reading his colums in The Miami Herald’s Tropic, people, leave me alone

Earlier this month, Claire Zulkey interviewed Miami’s Dave Barry. Here’s an excerpt:

Who are some of your favorite humor writers?

Steve Martin, Carl Hiaasen, Roy Blount Jr., Gene Weingarten, the late great Robert Benchley, the Onion people and a bunch more whose names escape me now because EVERYTHING escapes me now except body fat.



Rushdie at Downtown for Democracy

Tricia Romano of The Village Voice reports on last week’s Downtown for Democracy readings. Salman Rushdie put in a surprise appearance and read a “Dr. Seuss-ian take on the ballot controversy of 2000, ‘How the Grinch Stole America.’”

Romano says, “Eggers seemed to be the crowd’s favorite (Paul Auster and Jonathan Franzen were mine).” (Thanks to Mr. Maud and Pete for the link.)



Update

If you’re just tuning in, Pasha Malla has been hosting the site today. Scroll down, and be entertained. Maybe even fall in love.

I’m going to post a couple of things quickly, and then I’ll return tomorrow. Today a friend of mine is having minor surgery. I’ll be collecting her at the hospital in a couple of hours.

Please consider attending Todd Levin’s show tonight. Pasha posted the details below.



Thoughts on creative couples

Before I take off for the day, I thought I’d mention that I think couples (like Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein) who do “stuff” together are my favourite thing.

In the current issue of Readymade Magazine is a feature dedicated to couples who work creatively together. One of these couples is Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who make up the fantastic Mates of State. Listen to this band, I implore you. They are great.

Another couple who consistently do neat stuff: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Their multi-media installations and “walks” are phenomenal. A few years ago, at a show at Montreal’s Musée des Arts Contemporains, I watched their Forty-Part Motet reduce two men to tears. Seriously. It was just that good.



Hod Docs – Toronto

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has kicked off in Toronto. Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis have a film in it, The Take (scroll down for the link), about “Argentina’s radical new movement of occupied businesses: workers who return the country’s bankrupt workplaces and run them without bosses.” If I lived in Toronto, I would talk about going, but likely go play basketball instead.



The Feral Robot Dog Project (not Canadian, either)

I heard about this the other day.

They sniff, wag their tails, fetch and run in packs. Inside their plastic and metallic skins, robotic dogs programmed by engineering students at Yale University even have a social conscience. The mechanical canines, equipped with just about everything but a wet nose, are wired to sniff out toxic materials at former landfills and radioactive sites, providing environmental information about parks, school yards and other public spaces.



Book towns

Some time ago either Maud or Stephany were talking about “book towns” in the UK. I am not even sure if I am using the correct name. Small towns with a lot of bookshops, anyway.

Last summer I spent a few days at a friend’s place in the Wye Valley in Wales, and on the way back to London we stopped off in Hay-on-Wye, a great “book town” right on the English border. From the website:

Early reports of the eccentrics who seem to be attracted to Hay, include Maud Walbee, said by some to be a witch, who it has been reported was walled up with her eldest son, to starve to death for displeasing the king at the time.

At The Cinema Bookshop, I bought a copy of the François Truffaut-Albert Hitchcock interviews, which I then left in a cafe in Bath.

This summer’s Hay Festival has some big names, including Bob Geldof, John Updike, Neil Jordan and Ian McEwan. Also: Alberto Manguel — the guy is frigging everywhere. The festival runs from May 28 to June 6.



Alberto Manguel at the Blue Met

On Friday I am going to see Alberto Manguel at the Blue Metropolis literary festival here in Montreal.

I have never read anything of Manguel’s, but every time I’m at The Word bookstore (photo here) I pick up the copy of Black Water: An Anthology of Fantastic Literature, which is always in the same spot on the shelf, and consider buying it. But I never do. So I feel like I owe him, or something.

Manguel has a piece, “Imaginary Islands”, in the new issue of Geist. Here’s a sample:

A few weeks ago, on November 4, 2003, fourteen Kurdish refugees and four Indonesian sailors landed a small ship on the coast of Melville Island, eighty kilometres north of Darwin in the territorial waters of Australia, with the intention of demanding political asylum. Apprised of the news and weary of the tide of asylum seekers, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, took a drastic decision: he decided to cut off Melville Island (together with four thousand other islands belonging to Australia) from the nation’s territory. The gesture was not novel. In 2001 the Australian government had already excluded Christmas Island from its borders so as to be able to deport several hundred illegal immigrants to the island’s inhospitable beaches. Reading the news, I found myself wondering about this curious method of attempting to solve political problems by altering the map of the world.



Greetings and advance apologies

Hi.

It’s sort of late. I feel like one of those all-night talk radio djs, and that the only people listening to me are angry loners driving around in the rain.

So: I just got finished making a mix cd for a girl that I am maybe into. Now that it is done, I have realized that Bo Carter’s “Don’t Mash My Digger So Deep” was probably too suggestive. Crap. I am lousy at girls.

Anyway, I’m going to do my best filling in for Maud. That is all I can promise. I do not, generally, know where to find good things on the world wide internet. I am a fair talent at checking my email and occasionally buying products online (just this week I paid far too much money for a new duvet) and perhaps even sometimes prowling the literary sites and marveling at the wealth of talent out there in cyber-lit-land.

So, as Maud has mentioned, my mandate is to only post links from Canadian sites. I do not know if this is reasonable. We will see.

For now, though: goodnight.



Please welcome Pasha; also, site announcement

Pasha Malla of Montreal is taking over for me tomorrow. It’ll be an all-Canadian links day.

You may remember that Pasha guest-hosted during the blackout last August. If experience is any guide, he’s going to try to tell you he’s not smart or funny and that you should kick him as you pass on the street, but don’t listen. Pasha has stalkers. He makes everybody laugh on the Zoetrope backboards. If I had a dime for every time my youngest brother-in-law has urged me to “bring back that Pasha Malla fellow,” I’d be able to buy two $3 malteds at the Hudson Street candy store where the mean old lady works.

While you wait, be sure to read one of my favorite Pasha Malla short stories, “It Is What Fiction.” Then pick up the latest copy of Maisonneuve and read his “Looking for Mr. Goodbark,” a report on the Montreal International Dog show and a reflection on what we look for in pets. Here’s an excerpt:

Then, of course, there were the owners: registering, grooming, strolling around attached by leashes to their pets. A giant mustachioed fellow lurked in the shadows with an immaculately styled poodle; some stoic matron stood by, oblivious, while her corgi pissed surreptitiously on another dog’s leg. And only at a dog show could a matching jacket and skirt adorned with sequined Dalmations be worn with sincerity, glittering like a beacon of hope for all things earnest and true.

My only prior exposure to this facet of the dog business was the Christopher Guest mockumentary Best in Show, which I understood to be a tongue-in-cheek send-up of kennel culture. I asked Arthus Newman, the event organizer and president of Montreal’s United Kennel Club, about the film, expecting condemnation or, at the very least, curt dismissal. Without missing a beat, Newman responded, “That’s dog shows. That’s who we are. That’s what these things are like.”

If you want to email Pasha, use this address: pasha@maudnewton.com.

One other quick note: like Laila and Ed, Stephany and I have been planning in the last few weeks to post more original reviews and content on this site. If the blogs are going to play a role in decentralizing publishing information and power, then as Ed says they need to be generating original stories and criticism rather than simply commenting on the news put out by periodicals. In the next month, expect to see brief book reviews from Steph and me, and from a few of my bookish friends, some of whom are untainted by the book blog world.